Mark Rawlings enjoyed a successful acting career until an accident left him unable to work. He tells Giverny Masso how charity Acting for Others helped him get back on his feet…
How did you get into acting?
I was at the University of Oxford doing a PhD in biochemistry. My professor told me to go to the freshers’ fair, so I did. Someone there thrust a leaflet into my hand advertising auditions for Romeo and Juliet. I was cast as Romeo. Later, I gave up my PhD to go to LAMDA and the Oxford Times published an article about me in which they described me as a “scientist bitten by the acting bug”. After three years at LAMDA, I graduated when I was 30, so I was a late starter.
What roles have you performed?
I did a lot of stage combat training. My first job was at the Royal Opera House in I Capuleti E I Montecchi as a fighter. The fight director took me under his wing and I did stunt work for two years until I started auditioning for acting roles again. Then I did The Play What I Wrote in the West End before lots of TV and film. Appearing in Macbeth at Chichester Festival Theatre alongside Patrick Stewart was a highlight. It transferred to the West End and Broadway and was made into a movie.
When did you get injured?
I spent three years in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and was there when the ceiling fell in. We performed a scratch version for two weeks at Stratford Town Hall and a week at Ballet Rambert for schools that would not normally come to see West End theatre and for the emergency services who had helped on that night. Then I started working on Pride and Prejudice at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. At that time, I fell through a roof – I’d been doing some work on it when it gave way.
How did Acting for Others help?
During Pride and Prejudice, I shared a dressing room with Matthew Kelly, a big supporter of Acting for Others. We became good friends. After surgery for my fall, Matthew told me to phone Sharon [Lomas, general secretary of Acting for Others]. Within 24 hours, the charity helped me sort out my life, making sure my family could survive and we could get through Christmas. I dread to think what would have happened without their support. This happened on October 30 last year – it’s taken me this long to recover. Acting for Others provided great emotional support alongside the physical and financial assistance. In the past four weeks I’ve started auditioning again.
Why would you urge people to donate to the charity?
Our industry is not very stable. Most actors live hand to mouth and often struggle to keep up with the bills. They do it for the love of the theatre. If something happens to a performer, few have enough savings to survive a year without doing work. People come to the theatre because they love to see amazing actors and sometimes we need help – so theatregoers are the best people to ask. I feel terribly humbled by the fact that I was helped by such donations.
Acting for Others will be holding bucket collections in theatres around the UK from October 22 to November 4. Details: actingforothers.co.uk